Yankees face difficult infield situation with injuries taking hold

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees‘ infield situation has been unstable during the early weeks of the 2024 regular season. While Anthony Volpe has been impressive, Gleyber Torres at second base and Anthony Rizzo at first base have both struggled significantly.

Yankees’ Challenges with Infield Consistency

DJ LeMahieu, expected to be a stabilizing force, suffered a setback in his rehab assignment on Tuesday afternoon, delaying his return as the starting third baseman. In his absence, 25-year-old utility player Oswaldo Cabrera has been filling in at third base along with Jon Berti, who is currently dealing with an injury. Cabrera is hitting .278 with a .312 on-base percentage, but his production has been declining sharply; his wRC+ has dropped to 124 after initially hovering around 200.

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Cabrera has managed only two hits in his last four games and has not drawn a walk since April 13 against Cleveland. His low walk rate of 5.2% is becoming a significant issue as the Yankees need him to get on base more consistently. While Cabrera was never intended to be a permanent starter—more a versatile backup—his continued role is vital given LeMahieu’s ongoing absence.

LeMahieu, who pulled himself from a game due to soreness in his right foot, may need several more weeks to recover, meaning Cabrera will likely continue to see regular time at third base.

Struggles and Potential Changes in the Infield

Meanwhile, Gleyber Torres is having a tough start to what is a contract year for him. Over 24 games, he’s batting just .186/.290/.209, without a home run, and a 58 wRC+, indicating he is performing 40% below the average MLB hitter. His strikeout rate has increased by more than 11% from the previous year, and his power metrics have declined, with a career-low 36% hard-hit rate and 3.2% barrel rate. While there’s still time for Torres to turn his season around, the early signs are not promising.

The Yankees have delayed extension talks with Torres due to concerns about his potential regression, and with his free agency approaching in 2025, the team may soon face a gap in the infield. They could look to the Miami Marlins, potentially targeting Luis Arraez, who would be a strong fit but only has one year of control left after 2024, making any deal likely short-term.

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Sep 30, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) hits an RBI single against the Kansas City Royals during the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Rizzo, another infield veteran, has also underperformed despite hitting a two-run homer on Tuesday. He’s batting .231/.307/.319 with two home runs and 10 RBIs, and his walk rate has dropped to a career-low 6.9%. With a club option for 2025, the Yankees might reconsider their commitment to Rizzo, possibly turning to prospect Ben Rice, who has been impressive at the AA level this season.

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